Protect our living heritage of hawkers

I have lived in Toa Payoh Lorong 2 for more than two decades.

There is a good mix of shop houses and coffee shops in the neighbourhood. Famous eateries are also found here.

But to me, it is not just about the taste; these stalls give uniqueness and identity to my community.

The stall owners know one another and the residents. Each stall is an old neighbour and has its own character.

Hence, I am saddened to see more and more old stalls being replaced by big chain stores in recent years.

Last month, a coffee shop near my flat closed for renovation. I was shocked to find out that it is coming under the ownership of a big-chain food and beverage company, and that the rental will be doubled.

All the old-timers I have spoken to are giving up their stalls, simply because it will not be financially possible for them to carry on.

I expect that, eventually, the stalls will be operated by employees rather than recipe-owners who take pride in preparing the authentic food.

This scenario has already taken place in another neighbourhood coffee shop, and represents an insidious loss of food heritage.

Many hawkers are semi-retired or too specialised in their business. It will be difficult for them to start afresh in another location or industry.

Hawker food is one of the necessities in our lives. Over-commercialisation by big F&B chains will increase the cost of living and affect the social fabric of our community.

I understand that free-market forces are at play, but I urge the authorities to maintain a certain level of control over the market.

Hawkers are part of our living heritage and kampung spirit. We should treasure and protect them.

Edwin Lo Hong Sin